David Solis-Cohen, Pioneer Lawyer, Poet, Speaker, Merchant and Banker of Portland, Oregon

David Solis-Cohen

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“The perfect blending of American and Jew.

“His mother was Sephardi, his father was Ashkenazi, and he was descended from both colonial, Jewish, and immigrant stock”

–William M. Kramer z’l

David Solis-Cohen, Portland, OR, 1890s. #WS0142

David Solis-Cohen, Portland, OR, 1890s.

In 1850, David Solis-Cohen was born in Philadelphia to Myer David Cohen and Judith Solis.

He had four brothers and four sisters: Jacob DaSilva (1838-1927), Leon (1840-1884), Charity (1844-1943), Isabel (1848-1940), Zitella Esther (1852-1932), Salome (1855-1937), Solomon (1857-1948) and Isaac Leeser (1861-1943).

David Solis-Cohen was employed by the Philadelphia Public Ledger as a proofreader and writer.

He sometimes used the nom de plume “Daisy Shortcut.”


Along the way . . .

In 1877, David Solis-Cohen headed west for Oakland, California.

There, he worked for auctioneers, Frank and Frederick Mellis.


In 1877, Solis-Cohen read Torah during the High Holidays at First Hebrew Congregation in Oakland.

He also delivered the sermon on Yom Kippur.

In 1878, Solis-Cohen served as First Hebrew Congregation’s lay preacher.


Portland, Oregon

In late 1878, David Solis-Cohen moved to Portland, Oregon.

He established an auction house connected to his Oakland employers, Frank and Frederick Mellis.

Around 1889, Solis-Cohen started his own business, called Golden Rule Bazaar (also known as Cohen, Davis and Company), a wholesale importer/exporter of “toys and notions.”

The firm was located at Front and Ankeny.

Solis-Cohen’s youngest brother, Isaac Leeser Cohen, joined him in business soon after he opened the store.


David Solis-Cohen was also a lawyer.

Around 1900, he and Alexander Bernstein (his brother-in-law) formed a law partnership called Bernstein and Cohen.



In Portland, David Solis-Cohen was active in two congregations: Beth Israel and Ahavai Sholom.

Solis-Cohen also maintained a long term friendship with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise during the three years Rabbi Wise was serving Congregation Beth Israel (1900-1902).


David Solis-Cohen helped found the YMHA of Portland and, in 1880, was elected President.

He served as President until 1884.



David Solis-Cohen was on the executive board of the Portland Chamber of Commerce.

He held the position of Director of the Portland Trust Company.

Solis-Cohen also worked on the arts and music committee of the Portland Industrial Exposition.

He served as vice president of the Franklin Building and Loan Association as well as the Installment Housing Association.

David Solis-Cohen was on the Oregon Board of Immigration for 4 years.

He was the Commissioner of Charities and Corrections for 6 years.

In 1890, David Solis-Cohen served as Police Commissioner of the City of Portland.



David Solis-Cohen, Portland, OR, #WS0141

David Solis-Cohen, Portland, OR,

In 1891, David Solis-Cohen became the Grand Master of the Ancient Order of United Workmen for Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

He was a 32nd degree Mason and a Royal Arch Mason.

He was also an Exalted Ruler of the Elks and was often called upon to speak at Elks events.


David Solis-Cohen joined B’nai B’rith’s Oregon Lodge No. 65. 

He was also a member of Herzl Lodge No. 314 (also known as North Pacific Lodge).

In 1921, David Solis-Cohen was President of B’nai B’rith Grand Lodge No. 4.

He was the “Grand Orator” and frequent speaker of his B’nai B’rith lodges due to his excellent speaking abilities.


David Solis-Cohen was also a supporter of the Council of Jewish Women and the Zionist Society.



David Solis-Cohen married Bertha Kahn (b. 1863) in 1894.

David and Bertha did not have children of their own.

Isaac Leeser Cohen, David’s younger brother, named his son, born in 1899, David Solis-Cohen, Jr.

The Solis-Cohens lived at 132 North Twenty-First Street.


David Solis-Cohen died in Portland, Oregon, in 1928.

Bertha Solis-Cohen died exactly seven weeks after her husband.


For more information see the following issue of Western States Jewish History:

  • Solis-Cohen, David; David Solis-Cohen of Portland: Patriot; Pietist; Litterateur and Lawyer; Oregon; Kramer, William M.; 14
  • Sollis-Cohen, David; David Solis-Cohen of Portland: A Patriot of Sephardic Descent; Oregon; Kramer; William M., 29/1

Material also derived from: “Before Oregon had a Sephardic Community, it had David Solis-Cohen,” Oregon Jewish Life, May 2014

Samantha Silver is our Curator for this David-Solis Cohen Virtual Exhibit.